A Bluer State of Christmas

Our Christmas Album is LIVE! Click below to listen: 

A Bluer State of Christmas

Ah, 2018 – another year full of disasters and atrocities come and (almost) gone.

Shootings in schools, shootings in synagogues, and shootings in music venues. Migrant children being separated from their mothers. Contentious elections. Disenfranchised voters. White supremacist pipe-bombers. Brett Kavanaugh. Paul Manafort. Michael Cohen. Hurricanes and earthquakes and Paradise on fire (if that isn’t ominous, I’m not sure what is).

“Killers, thieves, and lawyers”… sounds like a Tom Waits song, eh? In fact, it seemed perfectly appropriate to open this album with a tune that could only have been crafted by the stellar imagination of Tom Waits.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

To understand what “A Bluer State of Christmas” is all about, perhaps it would help to understand a little about the origin of the theme. “A Blue State of Christmas” was born when the Hoover Dam Collective’s show of sad Christmas songs took a political turn in the wake of the 2016 election. Then came “A Blue State of Christmas” the album, which we recorded last fall and released in time for Christmas 2017.

The basic premise of most winter holidays, regardless of culture or religion, is the instinctual search for light and warmth during the coldest, darkest time of the year. But somehow over the years Christmas has had some different connotations slapped on top of it. Materialism. Greed. Intolerance.

The holidays encourage us to celebrate the people around us and to be joyful and revelrous. December can also be the loneliest time of year, because it forces us to notice what we are lacking. Each holiday season is a point of reference to look back on holidays past and reflect on which pieces are missing. And for many of us, it’s the idea that we SHOULD be feeling happy and joyous that makes it all the more difficult.

Sometimes we look at the news and it feels as though we are catapulting towards a quick impending apocalypse. And sometimes something as simple as a loved one leaving in the night with nothing but a hand-written note feels like an apocalypse inside of the unique, singular universe of our own life.

A Bluer State of Christmas is many things at once. It’s engaging and chuckle-worthly, like Andy Roninson’s cover of “Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis.”  It’s dreary and devastating, like Bears of Alaska’s cover of Rodriguez’s “Cause.” It’s frighteningly potent and a little too real, like Alex Mackinnon’s “Christmas in Palestine.” It’s clever and poignant, like “Blind Mute Torso of Love.” It is a calling to action and a coming together. It’s a reminder that we are greater than the sum of our parts.

It feels like a bit of a social stigma to talk about loss, to share our feelings of despair, emptiness. But just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean that we are always going to feel joyous. The sun goes down at 430pm. Innocent people are being shot by the police, while most of the worst criminals in this country will never pay for the crimes they’ve committed. The basic premise of this album is the idea that maybe we can come together in sadness and struggle in the same way that we come together in joy and celebration. One of the greatest antidotes to sadness is playing music together, which is really what this is all about.

Click HERE to check out the album.

A Blue State of Christmas

The Hoover Dam Collective made a Christmas album!

Click below to listen 


Album Artwork: Breegan Kearney 

Around this time last year, we were all walking around in circles, trying to make sense of what the fuck had just happened in our country. That infiltrating dread collided with run-of-the-mill seasonal depression, and somehow what emerged was a show of sad Christmas songs at LIC Bar, just before the inauguration of Donald J Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Thus, A Blue State of Christmas.

Why feel sad around the holidays? Well, people feel sad all year round; it’s just part of being human. But feeling sad around the holidays somehow feels that much more potent.

Maybe it’s the expectation that we should be cheerful and gay that makes it that much harder to actually feel that way. The holidays can often serve as a reference point for holidays past, and we reflect back on the love and the loved ones we’ve lost; everything looks better through nostalgia’s rose-tinted glasses. 

Or maybe it’s the dismal comparison of our lives against these glistening images and ideas we’ve been spoon-fed since youth: bustling family dinners, Christmas trees stacked high with presents, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, ice skating hand in hand with a sweetheart at Rockefeller Center, kissing under the mistletoe.

But life isn’t always as exciting as Billy Crystal rushing in just as the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve to tell you he wants to spend the rest of his life with you. Sometimes it’s sitting at home alone, contemplating how to write a Christmas card to a former lover. Sometimes it’s walking in at dawn to find your partner passed out drunk on the floor, or getting back to your apartment after a night of binge drinking and random sex to find that your keys are gone and so is all of your money.

Regardless, feeling sad around this time of year is the saddest feeling of all. But when people feel feelings, that’s when they make art, and often the stronger the feelings, the better the art. So here’s a collection of truly great songs about feeling sad around the holidays.

A Blue State of Christmas : 

Please Come Home for Christmas

Performed by Bad Faces: Barry Komitor (guitar, vocals), Brian Stollery (bass), Ethan Kogan (drums)

Written and originally recorded by The Eagles

“For the band’s contribution to the album, we chose the classic “Please Come Home For Christmas”, because Theo told me it was her favorite.” – Barry Komitor

River

Performed by Bears of Alaska: Lauren Peters-Collaer (vocals) and Sean Ryan (vocals, guitar)

Written and originally recorded by Joni Mitchell

“There are very few things I have in common with my 17-year-old self, but my love for Joni Mitchell is one of them. This song reminds me of making bread in my pajamas on Thanksgiving morning with the cold November air seeping into the warm kitchen, listening to ‘Blue’ over and over again. No one knows sad like Joni.” – Theo Boguszewski

“Joni Mitchell + Sadness + Christmas is a truly unbeatable combination, so this song was a clear winner in our minds. We especially resonate with the line, “I’m so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad,” on account of how selfish and sad we are.” – Bears of Alaska

1913 Massacre

Performed by Christian Apuzzo

Written and originally recorded by Woody Guthrie

“1913 Massacre is a ballad written by Woody Guthrie that was penned after reading about a disaster in which seventy three people were trampled to death during a Christmas Eve holiday party. The party was for striking miners in Calumet, Michigan and among the dead were 59 children. There is an ongoing debate about the cause of the disaster. The party took place on the second floor of a hall with a single exit down a steep set of stairs and when someone falsely yelled “fire” it caused the stampede. In the song, Woody asserts this tragedy was the result of a practical joke played on hard working men, women and children. The song has been covered by many, most notably Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and even inspired the tune for Bob Dylan’s own song “Song to Woody” – Christian Apuzzo/ Cole Rotante

My Christmas Bonus

“My Christmas Bonus was written by my very good friend Simon Scott, one of my favorite people I’ve ever known. Unfortunately, Scotty, as he was known to many of his friends, lost a battle with cancer a couple of years ago. He was a year older than me, and I always thought of him as my English twin. As he lay dying in Bellevue, I got up the nerve to learn this song. I had recorded a solo version of him singing it, and remembered all of the lyrics from the first time I heard them. I showed up at the hospital and sheepishly pulled out my guitar and began to play it, and he lit up. He had lost the physical ability to play, and I got the sense it meant a lot to him to hear his music. As his health deteriorated, I returned to play it for him a few more times before he passed, and those were the only times during the end of his life that I saw him happy. I now carry the song as an homage to him and to the power of music and friendship. That power extended itself further when this song helped establish and deepen the bond between myself and Theo Boguszewski, who lost her younger brother Dante to the same disease. I am so honored and thankful to Theo for including me, my band Bad Faces, and especially this song on this album.” – Barry Komitor

“One of my first memories of my friendship with Barry was the conversations that we had when he was dealing with the reality of his friend Scotty’s battle with cancer. This song hit me really hard the first time I heard it. To me, it’s about dealing with loss, and trying to seek solace in something outside of yourself. Ultimately this always falls flat, and there’s the moment when you’re forced to deal with yourself – metaphorically, you find yourself sitting alone in your apartment trying to figure out what the hell happened last night and where all your money went. It’s absolutely devastating.” -Theo Boguszewski

Written by Simon Scott

Performed by Barry Komitor (vocals, guitar), Brian Stollery (bass) and Ethan Kogan (drums)

So Much Wine

“When I listen to music, lyrics are one of the last things I hear. But this Handsome Family song struck me right away because it’s so relatable. I’ve got a particular person in mind each time I sing this. The song isn’t exactly about Christmas, but captures the not-so-pleasant parts of caring for someone who’s struggling, especially around the holidays.” – Barbara Ely

Performed by Barbara Ely (vocals) and Sam Werbalowsky (banjo)

Originally written and performed by: The Handsome Family

All The Best

“I discovered John Prine’s Christmas album one Christmas a few years back, as I was in the process of screen-printing Christmas cards, a yearly ritual. The thing about the holidays is, they really do make us realize how much love and warmth and community surrounds us, but they also have a tendency to bring back painful reminders of the love we’ve lost.  Most of us have been in a position of having to send a courtesy holiday card (or an email, text, etc) to someone who has hurt us. Without fail, there’s a much longer and more involved note that we want to write, but usually end up signing off on some nicety, like “wishing you well,” or “all the best.”

This song embodies the brilliance of John Prine; it is heart-wrenching in its simplicity as he takes on an emotional situation with ease and humor.” – Theo Boguszewski

Performed by Jasper Lewis (vocals, guitar) and Theo Boguszewski (vocals)

Originally written and performed by John Prine

The Christmas Song

“Though I’m not religious, the holidays are a great time to check in with friends and family, enjoy delicious food, and play music together.  I learned this tune for my friend Gordon whose family hosts an annual Christmas Party; he sings this one year round despite not knowing past the opening line.  I recorded it live with a minimal setup to emulate the 10pm cozy Christmas Eve couch feeling.” – Alex Mackinnon

Performed by Alex Mackinnon (guitar, vocals)

Written by Bob Wells and Mel Torme

Originally recorded by The Nat King Cole Trio

I’ll be Home for Christmas

“I’ll be Home for Christmas captures the longing of someone who is away from their family on the holidays.  I always loved this song for the way the melody so perfectly reinforces the message in the lyrics.  Written and recorded in the early 40s, this song resonated with soldiers overseas in World War Two and their families back at home.  It is a song that has never lost its relevance, although sometimes we wish it would.” – Jasper Lewis

Performed by Jasper Lewis (vocals, guitar)

Written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, Buck Ram

Originally recorded by Bing Crosby

Christmas in Prison

” I was stumped to pick a song when Theo suggested Christmas in Prison.  On my first listen, it instantly resonated with me.  Mr Prine writes about a Christmas spent alone in prison and while he tries to make the best of the holiday, his longing for his love never leaves him.  Definitely a blue song for Christmas.” – Justin Kirk

Performed by Justin Kirk ( (guitar, harmonica, lead vocals) and Theo Boguszewski (fiddle)

Originally written and performed by John Prine

Everyday’s a Holiday

“This song was written specifically for this compilation. A week before the recording date, Sean McVerry came over just to hang out. I asked him if he wanted to write a song while he was over, and in three hours, this is what turned up.

The narrator in the song is a guy who used to be too cool for Christmas and other societal norms, but now suddenly finds himself in a big house with a wife and kids and dogs and a new sensation bordering on contentment.”- Andy Roninson

“Andy and I wrote “Everyday’s a Holiday” from the perspective of a person coming to terms with just how fast life moves after a certain point. I think the holidays (with their usual traditions) can serve as kind of a control group in life – while every year is different, the holidays are always at least somewhat similar and uniform.

I think because of that fact, the holidays can offer a time to reflect on how pieces of your life have changed, whether it be minor things or waking up and suddenly having a wife and a family. I do think inherently the song can come across as almost bitter about that, but that wasn’t really our intention. The character in “Everyday’s a Holiday” has lived fast and perhaps lost track of where they’ve been going, but it’s possible where they’ve ended up isn’t all that bad.” – Sean McVerry

Performed by Sean McVerry (vocals, guitar) and Andy Roninson (keyboard)

Written and originally recorded by Sean McVerry and Andy Roninson

Impressions of ChristinaNoel and the Creature presents: “‘Murica'”

By Theo Boguszewski

The world premiere of ChristinaNoel and the Creature’s “‘murica” showcases choreographer ChristinaNoel Reaves’ signature brand of dance theater. Her unique assortment of flavors challenges, entertains, and ultimately points to a new road for the future of dance.

The piece opens to reveal Jeremy “Jae” Neal slowly circling the stage; the simplicity of his presence immediately captures our attention. From offstage and in the balcony, the sound of humming envelopes us; the cast’s vocalizations comprise the score for the first section of the piece. The regal Joanna Futral, using simple, angular movements that display incredible control, joins Neal. Aristocratic looking in long skirts and high necked leotards, their sensuous opening duet wavers between conflict and tenderness.

Reaves proves that she is more than a choreographer; she is a composer too. Her company consists of incredible dancers who can act and make music. Periodically, these performers accompany themselves by speaking and sustaining long notes. In a raucous canon performed by the full cast, the dancers stomp their feet along with flamenco-inspired hand motions, chanting in canon “you like me, you love me, you want me.”

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It is impossible not to notice the camaraderie amongst the group; they enjoy moments of improv comedy just as much as the audience. Neal issues a starling scream, and the entire cast scatters. In a gestural assertion of his manliness, Neal grabs Futral and dramatically dips her. “These are the rules of the game,” Neal announces. Some take him seriously. Others don’t. The proclamation leads to an entertaining series of mini skits evoking a modern version of the founding fathers, struggling to piece together rules for the governing of their new land.

Themes of individuality versus group allegiance (harkening back to the title “‘murica”) proliferate. Liz Beres performs a wild and indulgent solo, accompanying herself with vocalizations; one by one the others take notice and begin to chastise her for defying the group: “Liz, what are you doing?” “Liz, this is just crazy.”

The work constantly wavers between calm and chaos. Peaceful, holy music soon dissipates into heavy rock. Following a pedestrian moment, the cast mutates from humans into sensuous creatures, crawling, lunging, swiping, and gliding. “murica” juxtaposes formality and eccentricity. Reaves, deadpan and serious, appears to recite lyrics in a foreign language. Tara Nicholas performs a flamboyant voguing solo, circling her hips and chanting a catchy song.

 The dancers extend their arms behind their heads in a recurring gesture, which bears resemblance to angel wings. As the lights dim, an angelic hum is the only lingering shadow of the performance that occurred. Throughout the piece we see the cast make the transition back and forth between ethereal saints, flawed mortals, and raw creatures. It’s between these extremes that Reaves has found something that feels true to the human condition.


Impressions of: ChristinaNoel and the Creature Present: “‘Murica”

Choreographed by: ChristinaNoel Reaves and Dancers

Presented by: The Irondale

Performed by: ChristinaNoel Reaves, Liz Beres, Joanna Futral, Yeman Brown, Sean Hatch, Jeremy “Jae” Neal, Tara Nicholas, Gautam Nima, Rami Shafi

Lighting design: Adam Greene Costumes: Anastasia Meredith-Goujon and Vita Tzykun

Music: Primus, Fleet Foxes, This Will Destroy You, and original vocal compositions by ChristinaNoel Reaves

Ashley Brooke Roberts Photobomb

Ashley Brooke Roberts, Comedian and Host Extraordinaire.

“I came into [doing Hoover Dam Shows] peripherally, back when shows were in this giant warehouse in Northern Greenpoint that you had to walk to for 20 minutes and I remember being like “ah, the kids are doing it for themselves!” I was really into the whole DIY spirit of the event and also that everyone was really supportive of all of the weird voices that came out.”

 PBABR

“It has always been fun. It’s never not been fun, which is hard to say about a lot of shows that I do. I usually leave feeling inspired.”

 

pbabr2

Neighborhood of Residence: Bushwick!

Location of Shoot: Corner of Franklin Ave and Sterling Place.

http://www.ashleybrookeroberts.com/

Ashley Brooke Roberts will be hosting Hoover Dam Collective presents “FallOut” in Prospect Heights on Saturday, September 27th. More information here

Had a good Friday? Come Have A Better Saturday Night with us in Crown Heights!

We know how it is. You decided to go out on Friday even though the weather wasn’t so great because, heck, it was a Friday night. Maybe you drank and you realized that you couldn’t get away with drinking terrible vodka the way that you were able to in college. Maybe you woke up this morning not feeling so hot, only to realize that it was beautiful outside and you had to go to work.

It’s okay. We get that. We also promise that coming out tonight will be a guaranteed good time. 

Full-Band-BnW

Here’s a super heartfelt interview with Nat Osborn of the Nat Osborn band, who coordinated all of the musical performances coming up tonight @ Mr. Rogers in Crown Heights. They are also performing

R: What would you describe as your first gripping memory relating to sound? 

N: The clearest early memory I have is of standing on the piano bench in my old home playing different combinations of two notes at quite a young age, probably three or four years old.  I can actually remember picking out fourths and fifths (all white notes:  C and G or F and C) and playing with different combinations of them because I liked the way they sounded, which makes sense because they’re pretty simple, basic harmonic constructs.

R: As a performer, what’s the process of mental preparation like for getting up on stage and really putting yourself out there? You have a really striking and confident stage presence.

N: Thanks!  To be totally honest I don’t really have a process.  I should, but it’s more like me running around making sure set lists are written and in hands and everyone has what they need before going on.  Maybe one day I’ll be at the point where that’s taken care of and I can meditate and drink tea and chill before a show but I don’t that that’s me.  Frankly, all the running around and stressing is my version of nerves I think.  All of that melts away when I’m on stage and in the music.  The performing part is what I love, it’s a release in every way, so I think that if there’s a confident presence coming off it just comes from me feeling like I’m doing what I love and what I need to be doing on a fundamental level.  So much of a musicians life is hard to control, so there’s an added sense of power in the control of being the focus of both the band and the audience.  I’m glad to hear that the ecstasy of that release is palpable from an audience perspective because I want to take them with me and share that.

R: What do you think goes into writing a piece of music that you find fulfilling? What do you think should be included in genuinely listening to a piece of music?

N: I’m not totally sure what genuinely listening to a piece of music is, I suppose it just means giving it honest, open and fully focused attention.  We listen to music in so many different ways these days that it’s hard to do that.  One hundred years ago if you wanted to hear a song or piece of music you had to own a radio, hear musicians perform live or buy the sheet music and learn to play it yourself.

Now we have iPods, or phones with entire catalogs of music on them or in pockets.  We hear music in every store we go into, in most social situations, and even most cell phone rings are musical in nature, so it’s really hard to strip away the context.  Also, there’s so much hype and social/cultural context in music, probably more so than any other medium of art.  People will like bands or not like bands before they even hear them because the right people are telling them to or not to.  We’re all guilty of this to an extent, I think it’s part of human nature.

Just an hour ago I was watching NPR Little Desk Concerts on youtube (another medium to experience music), scrolling through performances by some of my favorite bands and happened to listen to a Passion Pit performance.  I never really cared for the band and considered them just part of the wave of synth-pop that was hip in 2009-11 or so, but I was so completely struck by Michael Angelakos songwriting that I realized that I had been guilty of not judging their work fairly, though in fairness I preferred the acoustic version to the produced version so it may be a matter of taste.

It’s pretty hard to listen openly, honestly and with fully focused attention but it can be really rewarding when you do.  We tend to let music accompany our lives or images these days, it’s rare that people just sit down and listen to a record for the sake of listening.  That’s the best way to take it in and form your own opinion about it.

As for writing a piece that’s fulfilling- I’ll spare you another essay and just say it’s a terribly fickle thing that takes a combination of right brain freedom and inspiration and left brain editing and structuring skills.  I tend to struggle more with the latter.

R: What are some sounds that you enjoy, just as sounds themselves?

N: It sounds cliche and corny but my favorite sound that’s not music is the sound of water in motion.  Sounds affect us in different ways: car horn makes you alert, the sound of footsteps perks our ears up and makes us attentive, etc.  The sound of the ocean or a creek has always had the instant impact of calming the entire nervous system and almost hitting a reset button.  Who knows why that is, we’re not exactly aquatic creatures.  I think it strikes something pretty ancient and eternal in our make up.

R: How did you become affiliated with the Hoover Dam Collective?

N: Nicole, who’s part of the collective, came to an early Hawthorne show.  Hawthorne is my folk band that used to be more active in NYC before the Nat Osborn Band got super busy.  She saw us at Rockwood and invited us to be a part of a show at Station 171 probably about four years ago. I remember walking through industrial, way out there Brooklyn on the way to this run down building thinking “what have we gotten into” before having one of the most fulfilling and exciting artistic experiences in my time in New York.

R: Do you find that performing with a collective has shaped any of your viewpoints regarding interdisciplinary performance?

N: Absolutely, even if it just gives me perspective and awareness on how many people are trying to do this in so many different ways.  And by “do this” I don’t necessarily mean make a living off art but just express themselves in the way the feel they were born to.  That’s what I love about the nights Theo and I have put together in the past and are doing again this Saturday at Mr. Rogers.  You get to be moved by different artists who have put years into honing a craft in a way that is different from your own.  Those artists get to inspire each other, collaborate with each other in the future, or just hang back, drink a beer and enjoy the atmosphere.

R: How do you want people to listen to your music?

N: My preference would be for them to see us live.  The energy, excitement and improvisatory nature of the band means that every show is its own experience and I really feel that over the past year we’ve grown into something unique and powerful.  Going on tour and playing close to a hundred shows in the past year has brought us to a whole other level and I’m excited every time we get on stage.

Truthfully though, I’m honored anytime people listen though, so if that’s putting on The King And The Clown while riding the subway or playing a track at a party I’m pretty stoked.  Plus, while we’re increasingly touring and going to places like Austin, Chicago or even Prague, you can’t always catch us live so hopefully the record can suffice.

R: What are some less expected references and sources that inspire you?

gershwinN: I think some of the music that’s inspired me that’s not so obvious would include folks like Bernstein, Gershwin, Tchaikovsky, and Sinatra.  I grew up listening to that music and it’s in my genetic make up as much as more obvious references like Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.  I used to listen to “Rhapsody in Blue” almost every day when I first moved into my Brooklyn apartment at sunset (my view overlooked the skyline and the statue of liberty) and as much incredible music as the city has created I still think that piece is the quintessential soundtrack of New York.

R: Is it possible to pinpoint a couple of ways in which you’ve developed as an artist over the last ten years?

N: Ten years ago I couldn’t even vote!  Though in fairness, ten years ago I was in a band that set me up for this whole career and I was working on music and songwriting as hard as ever, if not harder given the fact that I didn’t have to pay rent.

I think the most important ways I’ve developed artistically basically come down to experience.  It takes being on stage a lot to find your comfort zone and grow in it.  It takes playing with better musicians to become a better one yourself.  It takes seeing your friends do incredible and inspiring things to inspire you to do the same.  I don’t think I’m more creative than I was when I was younger, just more practiced, more experienced, and generally better.

R: What would you describe as your two most fulfilling experiences related to performing music?

N: The first one has to be our CD release show at Le Poisson Rouge last March.  It was packed to the gills and there was an amazing, celebratory energy in the air.  It felt like a huge arrival point after years of hard work.

There are so many great moments to choose from for the second that I’m not sure I’ll be able to pinpoint one.  We had some fantastic nights in Europe this past October and our NYC shows at Rockwood are always special.  The recent show at Gramercy Theater was a great one.

I always hold a special place in my heart for the HDC shows though because they have a different energy to club shows.  We always get wilder, more out there and high energy at those shows.  

Maybe this Saturday will be that other one!

Saturday, April 5th 2014

Misters Rogers @ 231 Rogers Ave (Crown Heights) 

Doors at 7:30, starts at 8 

$5 before 9, $10 after 9 

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Thanks to everyone who attended our show at LIC bar in Queens!
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